Aranui Cave

Useful Information

A beautiful white straw in Aranui Cave.
A strange speleothem. Stalagmite on the top, stalactite (soda straw) at the bottom. The reason is the strange location at an outleap of the wall.
Location: Near Waitomo.
From Auckland follow State Highway 1 south to Hamilton, then State Highway 3 south to Waitomo. Caves are signposted. 200 km south of Auckland, 70 km from Hamilton, 16 km from Otorohanga. 2 km from Waitomo Caves in Ruakuri Scenic Reserve.
(-38.2635577, 175.0800311)
Open: All year daily at 10, 11, 13, 14, 15.
Closed 25-DEC.
Fee: Adults NZD 55, Children (4-14) NZD 25, Children (0-3) free, Family (2+2) NZD 140.
Classification: SpeleologyKarst cave BiologyGlowworm
Light: LightIncandescent Electric Light System
Guided tours: D=60 min.
Photography: allowed
Accessibility: no
Address: Waitomo Caves, Private Bag 501, Otorohanga, Tel. +64-7-8788227.
As far as we know this information was accurate when it was published (see years in brackets), but may have changed since then.
Please check rates and details directly with the companies in question if you need more recent info.


NOV-1910 discovered by Ruruku Aranui.
FEB-1912 official opening by the Minister of Tourism.


The Aranui Cave contains maily of a single horizontal passage with many fine speleothems. It has no cave river and only one entrance. Visitors walk up the main passage and then have to turn around and walk back the same path.

At the entrance of Aranui Cave is a large colony of cave wetas, giant spider-like insects. They are not really spiders although they look similar, but they have only six feet instead of eight. They are closely related to crickets and locusts. Weta is again a Maori language word, which means the ugly one or the spiny one. However, the cave wetas are quite harmless!

Cave wetas are adapted to living in dark places and have a good sense of smell, long legs and antennae to feel their way in the dark. Also they are nearly blind. They leave Aranui Cave only at night forageing on the forest floor for food. During a full moon, they do not leave the cave because there is too much light. Cave wetas are so-called troglobionts, as they live in caves and were altered by the special conditions of the cave.

Aranui Cave is famous for its interesting and beautiful limestone formations. It displays ranges of flowstone, cave coral formations and straw stalactites. Its Cathedral is 20 meters high, stalactites are up to 6 meters long, stalagmites as tall as 3 meters.

The cave is named after a young Maori man, Ruruku Aranui, who discovered it in 1910 as he pursued a wild pig. His dog chased the pig down a steep hill, when the pig and the dog suddenly disappeared. The dog's barking led Ruruku to a small hole in the side of the hill. He crawled inside, his only light were some matches, and founddog and pig in a high chamber that continued into the darkness. At this time the Waitomo caves were already established, so Ruruku Aranui went to Waitomo and told the manager in charge of the caves about his new cave discovery. The cave was much easier to develop than the Glowworm Caves, and after a year it was opened for tours. First the cave was called Ngutuhihi (the beak of the stitch-bird), but pronunciation was very difficult, and so it was decided by the Minister of Tourism to rename it Aranui Cave after its discoverer.

a strange speleothem. Stalagmite on the top, stalactite (soda straw) at the bottom. The reason is the strange location at an outleap of the wall.
water entereing the cave from horizontal cracks forms parallel rims of calcite with stalactites and soda straws.
a nice group of stalactites. The big stalactite in the center seems to be an older generation. After it formed, it became covered by cave coral.